This should have been the best possible year for Himachal Pradesh’s apple growers. The favourable weather promised a bumper harvest. The ban on imports from China since June 2017, the Narendra Modi government hiking the customs duty on US apples from 50% to 70% this June and, more recently, the lockdown in Kashmir causing disruptions in fruit movement from the Valley: All of this ought to have made it a rich harvest as well.
Instead, the current situation is disappointing.
The crop has, no doubt, turned out better than the last two years. In 2017, Himachal’s apple production was estimated at 22.3 mln boxes (each containing 20 kg of fruit), which fell to 21.8 mln boxes last year. In this apple marketing season from August, arrivals in mandis across the state have already touched 26.5 mln boxes till October 8, as per data from the horticulture department. With the crop from Kinnaur -a high-altitude belt- to arrive after mid-October, the total figure is expected to be 30-33 mln boxes.
“The crop has been generally good, especially in the mid-hill belt. Only in the higher hills, the fruit size was affected by rains and thunderstorms in August at the time of maturity. But even here, there was no problem during the flowering (from March in low hills to May in the high altitudes) and fruit-setting (April-June) periods,” notes Rohit Thakur, the owner of an apple orchard at Jubbal in Shimla district and also grandson of former chief minister Thakur Ram Lal.